Why is vision so important to a child's education?

Vision and learning are intimately related. In fact, research indicates 80% of learning is dependent upon a child’s ability to see and 75% of the school day is spent in visual activities. So, good vision is essential for students of all ages to reach their full academic potential. Vision is a complex process that involves several visual skills, and more than 65% of all the pathways to the brain. One in four children have undiagnosed eye problems which can interfere with learning and lead to academic and/or behavioral problems. However, it is important to know that these children frequently do not report symptoms because they think everyone sees the same way they do .

Omaha Child Vision Collaborative

Recognizing that inequities were occurring in the Omaha community for many of its minority, poor, and refugee children, Building Healthy Futures convened the Omaha Child Vision Collaborative in February 2015. The Child Vision Collaborative includes cross-sector partners from education, government, insurance, non-profit, health care, post-secondary education, and vision health professional organizations armed with a charge:

  • “To create a coordinated system for vision care that includes education, screening, diagnosing, and treatment  for underserved children in our city’s most impoverished communities by maximizing resources through cross-sector and interdisciplinary partnerships.”

 

Our Special Thanks

The following people and organizations supported our pilot vision screening providing time, expertise, space, supplies, man-power, and encouragement.

  • Benson High School
  • Bryan High School
  • Castelar Elementary School
  • Central Park Elementary
  • Charles Drew Health Center
  • Children's Hospital & Medical Center: Donny Suh, MD
  • Creighton University College of Nursing
  • Creighton University Medical Students
  • Dr. Dean and Mary Lauritzen
  • Essilor Vision Foundation
  • Indian Hill Elementary School
  • Kennedy Elementary School
  • Kent Heyda
  • Kugler Vision: Mollie Myers, OD
  • Liberty Elementary School
  • Lions Club International
  • Medical Reserve Corp.
  • Methodist College of Nursing
  • Midwest Eye Care
  • Millard Family Eye Care: Ellen Weiss, OD & Dave Michaels, OD
  • Nelson Mandela Elementary
  • Norris Middle School
  • Omaha Primary Eye Care: Corey Langfod, OD & Marsha Kubica, OD
  • Omaha Public Schools
  • OPS School nurses
  • Pediatric Ophthalmology Associates: Sarah Weirda, MD
  • Rose Hill Elementary
  • Sharon Wade
  • Skinner Magnet School
  • Spring Lake Elementary
  • UNMC Colleges of Nursing, Public Health, and Medicine
  • UNMC Truhlsen Eye Institute: Donny Suh, MD & Shane Havens, MD
  • UNMC University Opitcal
  • ViewPoint VIsion: Matt Klemke, OD & Ariann Brown, OD
  • VSP Vision Care
  • Walnut Hill Elementary

 

Child Vision Collaborative Timeline and Process

February 2015

  • The Child Vision Collaborative Convened for first collaborative meeting.

February – May 2015

     Conducted landscape analysis of

  • Existing vision services and programs serving the Child Vision Collaborative target population
  • Programs implemented in similar communities throughout the U.S., with follow-up interviews to gain better insight and lessons learned 
  • Existing policies and reimbursement rates for services provided to children covered by Medicaid and Kids Connect

June 2015

  • Child Vision Collaborative members attended two site visits in Cleveland and Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • Began conversations with OneSight regarding their fix-site vision clinics in schools.

July 2015

  • Child Vision Collaborative makes recommendation to pursue partnership with OneSight for a school-based vision program in Omaha

August – December 2015

     Worked to identify:

  • Two school sites
  • Capital costs for two sites
  • Continuum  of care to support school-based clinics (education, screening, and advanced medical care) and partners

February/March 2016

     Conducted pilot screening to identify best practices for screening large populations of students:

  • 8 Omaha Public Schools selected for pilot project; 6 elementary, 1 middle school, 1 high school 
  • Over 5,000 students provided comprehensive screening in February 2016
  • Screening efforts elicited the help of over 120 volunteers
  • Approximately 1,600 students (32%) were referred for a full vision exams (national average is 25%)

May 2016

  • Child Vision Collaborative partnered with the University of Nebraska Medical Center to host a week-long regional vision clinic supported by OneSight’ mobile vision van; serving 650 students with exams and free frames and lenses.
  • Students were provided free exams by five private vision clinics in the Omaha Community: ViewPoint Vision, Omaha Primary Eye Care, Millard Family Eye Care, Kugler Vision, and Dr. Sarah Wierda. If needed, students also were able to get free frames and lenses.

Summer 2016

  • Data analyzed from pilot screening to determine best practice for vision screening of mass child populations. Results supported the use of photoscreening technology, stereopsis screening for vision alignment, and teacher observations for identifying students in need.

October-November 2016

  • Approximately 5,000 students will be screened within eight Omaha Public Schools and one private school in the community.

March 20-24, 2017

  • OneSight Vision Mobile Vision Van provided 637 eye exams and free eyeglasses to students referred during Fall 2016 screening events.
  • 35 Pre-K students were given eye exams in school by pediatric ophthalmologist Sarah Weirda.

Facts and Questions

What can happen if a child’s vision issues are not diagnosed?

Vision is a complex phenomenon that occurs in various parts of the brain, not in the eyes. The eyes merely send information to the brain to be processed. The visual areas of the brain send information to the motor areas, directing the hands, feet and body to react to what has been seen. Eye problems and visual processing problems in the brain both affect the development of eye hand and eye body coordination.

In addition to motor skills, children develop important mental concepts like object permanence, causal relationship, constancy, classification, and conservation with sight. Vision problems hinder their ability to engage in the process, thus hindering their cognitive growth. Social problems also develop with vision problems. Children observe facial expressions and body language in order to properly interpret people’s emotional responses. Impaired vision can hinder their ability to participate in processes that are crucial to their social development.

Some children with learning difficulties exhibit specific behaviors of hyperactivity and distractibility. These children are often labeled as having "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder" (ADHD). However, undetected and untreated vision problems can elicit some of the very same signs and symptoms commonly attributed to ADHD. Due to these similarities, some children may be mislabeled as having ADHD when, in fact, they have an undetected vision problem.

What are the warning signs of potential vision problems?

  • Child becomes easily distracted
  • Avoids near tasks
  • Has emotional outbursts 
  • Poor self image
  • Shows aggressive behavior
  • Low comprehension
  • Poor concentration
  • Fails to complete assignments
  • Frustrated with school
  • Exaggerated head movements
  • Loses place and skips lines
  • Very close reading distance
  • Has no voice inflection when reading
  • Rapidly fatigues when reading

Why does a child’s vision need to be checked every year?

According to the American Optometric Association, children should have an eye exam by no later than 6 months old, then again by age 3 years, and just before starting school. School-age children need an exam every two years after that if they have no visual problems. But if your child requires eyeglasses or contact lenses, schedule visits every 12 months.

Frequent eye exams are important because during the school years your child's eyeglasses prescription can change frequently. Your eye care practitioner also will ensure that your child has the visual skills required for success in school and sports, such as accurate and comfortable eye teaming, peripheral vision, ease of focusing from distance to near and hand-eye coordination.

Glossary of Terms

  • Amblyopia ("lazy eye") is poor vision in an eye that may appear to be normal. Two common causes are crossed eyes and a difference in the refractive error between the two eyes. If untreated, amblyopia can cause irreversible visual loss in the affected eye. (By then, the brain's "programming" will ignore signals from that eye.) Amblyopia is best treated as early as possible, ideally before a child is 8 years old.
  • Anisometropia is a condition in which the refractive state of a pair of eyes differs and therefore one eye requires a different lens correction from the other.
  • Astigmatistm is imperfect curvature of the front surface of the eye, which is usually treated with glasses if it causes blurred vision or discomfort.
  • Farsightedness (also called hyperopia), which is usually treated with glasses or contacts.
  • Nearsightedness is poor distance vision (also called myopia), which is usually treated with glasses or contacts.
  • Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who provide comprehensive eye care with medicine and surgery.
  • Opticians fit and adjust eyeglasses.
  • Optometrists provide services that may be similar to ophthalmologists, but they don't perform surgery. Some optometrists specialize in childs' eye problems.
  • Pediatric ophthalmologists are doctors who have additional special training to treat childs' eye problems.
  • Strabismus is a misalignment of the eyes; one or both eyes may turn in, out, up, or down. If the same eye is chronically misaligned, amblyopia may develop in that eye. With early detection, vision can be restored by patching the properly aligned eye, which forces the misaligned one to regain sight. Surgery or glasses are usually required to realign the eyes.

Members

  • Kathy Austin, MPA
  • Renee Claborn, RN, BSN
  • Joel Dougherty
  • Mike Feilmeier, MD
  • David Filipi, MD
  • Shane Havens, MD
  • Tom Hejkal, MD, Ph.D.
  • Kailey Kocourek
  • Lance Kugler, MD
  • Carol LaCroix
  • Corey Langford, OD
  • Mary Lauritzen
  • Richard Legge, MD
  • Emily Magel
  • Dave McBride
  • Kenny McMorris, MPA-CHEF
  • Mollie Myers, OD
  • Donna Neely, EMBA
  • Emily Penner, DNP
  • Neil Powell
  • Barb Rebrovich, MS
  • Andrea Skolkin, MPA
  • Donny Suh, MD
  • Deb Tomek, MD
  • Sharon Wade
  • Jeanee Weiss, MS
  • David Wentworth
  • Sarah Wierda, MD

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